No official response yet from President's House on allegations of misspending

Date: 
Wednesday, September 21, 2016 - 04:45

There is silence from President’s House on new allegations which have surfaced on social media about questionable spending at President’s House and that a relative of Reema Carmona, wife of President Anthony Carmona, is employed at President’s House.

Social media has been abuzz following blogs by political commentator Rhoda Bharath that millions of dollars have allegedly been spent on wine and jewelry. 

The Guardian attempted to speak with head of the household Esther Liverpool. When a call was first made through the PBX to the President’s House someone said there were problems with the phone system and the call could not be transferred. 

Another attempt was made and when the call was transferred and a request was made to speak with Liverpool someone said she had stepped out. A Miss Hackett advised, however, that all questions be referred to the President’s communications advisor Theron Boodan.

Attempts to contact Boodan were also unsuccessful. Calls to his phone were also unanswered and voice messages were not returned. He had issued a brief comment the day before describing the allegations as “baseless.”

Attempts were also made to contact one Savitri Singh named in Bharath’s blog as a relative of Reema Carmona but the T&T Guardian was told that she had left for the day.

Bharath first posted the blog on Sunday in which she spoke of wine being bought in Italy and relabelled with the official seal of the President’s House and labelled Presidential House sparkling wine. There are images of the wine bottle on Facebook.

In her blog, Bharath pointed to a $2 million discrepancy in spending at President’s House contained in the Auditor General’s report.

The report, which is available online under the heading Individual Areas of Concern, speaks to expenditure control at President’s House.

It said, “There were 85 instances of incorrect classification of expenditure totalling $2,685,236.90 in contravention of financial regulation 65 which stipulates that a vote may not be applied to a purpose for which it was not intended.”

A memorandum was subsequently sent to the Head of Expenditure at President’s House on March 15, 2016, with a request for a response to the matters raised to be submitted within three weeks of the date of issue of the memorandum. But up to April 15 of this year when the report was laid in Parliament, there was no indication that a response had been forthcoming.

The Auditor General’s report said that “meaningful response to audit issues raised is a crucial step towards resolving irregularities and internal control weaknesses. It also reflects management’s commitment to improving fiscal responsibility and achieving good governance.”

The report further stated that “accounting officers are required by financial regulation 8 (l) to “reply promptly and fully to any queries…” of the Auditor General. 

Memoranda outlining findings and recommendations have been issued to the ministries and departments audited. 

There was no response from President’s House on whether the information requested had since been submitted.

Meantime, the T&T Guardian was able to confirm that one of the people named in the online blog, Prematee Nagee, is no longer employed at President’s House. A well-placed source at President’s House said Nagee was once Reema Carmona’s stylist. 

President Carmona is in Guyana where he delivered the keynote address to the international judicial conference, the Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association, a London-based organisation, in collaboration with the Supreme Court of Guyana.

Last night, CNC3 News spoke to Carmona in Guyana but he said he was busy attending a conference and would be willing to speak when he returns to the country tomorrow.

SOURCE: www.guardian.co.tt (Rosemarie Sant)

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